During a forgotten time when the world was powered by steam and clockwork, heroes arose to do battle against the forces of evil. Some were outfitted with the latest technology. Others were changed by the mysteries of science and magic, while a few came from the skies. Capes and Clockwork fuses the fantasy and beauty of steampunk with the action and adventure of the superhero genre. Tease your imagination with sixteen stories of good versus evil, monster versus hero, and steam versus muscle!
The Capes and Clockwork Anthology was published on January 1, 2014 by Dark Oak Press – what a great way to start off the year!
I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to some of the authors of this anthology –
Are you primarily a short story writer or novel length?
Alan D Lewis: I’ve written both and enjoy both. A novel gives you plenty of room to explore the characters and their worlds in my depth and detail. I prefer writing novels. On the other hand, short stories can tell a brief but compelling story, not weighing the reader down.
For me, writing a few short stories after finishing up a draft of a novel is a pallet cleanser, so to speak.
Logan L Masterson:
It’s hard to say, since I haven’t actually finished a novel to date. Wait. Maybe it’s not that hard. With Clockwork Demons in Capes & Clockwork, a very brief story in an upcoming werewolf anthology, and a novella from Pro Se Press, I suppose I’m really a short form writer. I enjoy exploring the economy of shorter works, and I think they support theme a lot better than novels.
David J Fielding: Though I have aspirations at being a novelist, I find myself concentrating on short stories at the present time. There is a challenge to take readers on a journey, with a beginning, middle and end and keep it to a limited word count. Perhaps that’s the influence of modern media on storytellers – the on-demand format, the hyper-link generation – micro-bursts of entertainment; when they want it, how they want it. As a writer it challenges you to convey your ideas and story in a streamlined way. You find yourself creating shortcuts. There’s a Stephen King short story Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut that (for me) is a great metaphor of writing short stories – and that new roads, worlds and layers are out there.
Christopher Valin: I haven’t written a novel yet, although I did write a history book. Most of my work has consisted of short stories, feature scripts, and teleplays. I grew up reading comic books and eventually worked in the comic business as an inker and writer, so I’ve always loved superheroes.
Brent Nichols: I write frequently at a wide variety of lengths, from short stories to novellas to novels. Each form has its challenges and its rewards, and I’m fairly comfortable with all of them. Mostly, I like to tell a story, and I don’t worry too much about length. The story goes from the start to the finish, whether that’s four pages or four hundred.
What aspects of the Steampunk genre do you find the most satisfying?
Alan D Lewis: With Steampunk, I’ve always been drawn to the Victorian Era and the spirit of adventure and wonder. It was a time where anyone with some know-how could take a box of metal cogs and springs and invent wondrous contraptions. Balloons and airship were indeed flying during this time. Maybe not monstrous flying machines, but they did exist and were built by individuals, not by aerospace corporations.
So Steampunk let my imagination run wild with what ‘could have been’.
And superheroes? Well as a kid, I grew up reading The Avengers, Thor, and others. So writing about them wasn’t a problem but joy.
Logan L Masterson: The best thing about steampunk is the opportunity of exploration. The Victorian era was a brilliant time, and its settings allow authors to as some great what if questions. That there remained so many unknowns opens the field. We can explore social issues, the resurgence of mysticism, technology, and wide, vast dominions, all with the same breath.
Christopher Valin: As for Steampunk, it’s something I liked for many years without knowing it was a genre. For example, as a kid, ‘Wild, Wild West’ was one of my favorite shows.
But it wasn’t until six or seven years ago that I realized it was a genre in itself, and started not only reading it, but writing stories in that vein.
So being able to write a story combining the two and figuring out how to make it work was very satisfying to me. I loved thinking about how superheroes would have been over a hundred years ago.
Brent Nichols: The beauty of Steampunk for me is the absence of limits in certain key areas. I grew up reading science fiction and old-fashioned adventure stories, and steampunk at its best combines the two.
The thing about Steampunk technology is that it feels accessible. You can’t take apart a piece of modern technology and tinker with it. Pull the cover off of your smart phone some time and see how far you get. So much of modern technology is simply beyond the grasp of an individual. Most science fiction these days doesn’t involve a solitary genius making a breakthrough or building an innovative new machine. That sort of thing is done by the huge R&D departments of major corporations these days, not one smart person with a lab in his basement.
In the 19th century, though, we had men like Edison and Tesla, and a few women, too, making truly astonishing discoveries and building devices that changed the world. Steampunk technology often feels like something you could create on your own, or at least take apart and tinker with, and understand. It’s just plain more fun than modern science fiction.
The other part of Steampunk that appeals to me is the ability to play in a wild, fascinating past world, when every corner of the planet was not yet mapped and measured, when there were still lost tribes and unexplored jungles and so many things that were simply unknown. A steampunk writer gets to play in that marvellous world, without the need to be limited by actual history. Steampunk worlds are alternate worlds, and we get to make changes. We get to say, let’s change that historical fact, or devise that gadget that would not, strictly speaking, actually work. Let’s keep the story rooted in history and technology that are basically sound and feel plausible, but let’s allow for wondrous machines and places and events, because it allows us to tell such awesome stories.
What writing challenges have you learned to overcome?
Alan D Lewis: When I first started writing, my main problem wasn’t with developing the story or plot or characters. It was with the mechanics of writing. The subject had never been a strong point in school and I struggled, early on with that fact. Storytelling always came easy. Writing did not. But I surrounded myself with other writers who weren’t afraid to point out my errors and encourage me to continue. I also had to get over the fact that it doesn’t have to be right the first time. A writer can edit and rewrite and rewrites some more. My first book was a long, long road, but I learned enough that the second novel took a fraction of the time to turn around from an idea to a published manuscript.
Logan L Masterson: Steampunk’s challenges are relatively few for me. It’s really a natural genre, since I grew up reading mostly comic books and, you guessed it, classics. Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and so many others. I was a teenager before I got past Tolkien into other “modern” fantasists, so the fusion of science fiction and Victoriana was easy for me. Add my love of comic books, and Clockwork Demons may have been the easiest story I’ve ever written. The only challenge for me was devising a unique, distinctive technology for my world. Once I had that wound up (hah!), the rest fell into place.
Christopher Valin: For several years, I wrote almost nothing by screenplays, so the biggest challenge for me in writing short stories is probably changing my mindset and including more description and inner dialogue.
I’m still hesitant to include too much about how everything looks because I want to leave some of it to the ‘director’… which, in this case, is the reader picturing the story in his or her head.
Brent Nichols: Learning to tie my shoes was a big hurdle. More recently, I’ve been struggling with how to present the technology of steampunk in a way that’s plausible and interesting without bogging the reader down in a lot of technical detail.
The big problem with Steampunk technology is that most of it wouldn’t actually work. There were no airships in the Victorian era, no walking machines, no hydraulic spiders or steam-powered giant mechanical ants. Steam power requires vast weights of iron and water to function. The really cool inventions that steampunk writers and artists dream up simply wouldn’t work in the real world.
I deal with it by dreaming up gadgets that are just a little bit beyond the realms of physics as we know it. Far enough out there to be cool, but not far enough out there to be ridiculous. And I hint at alternate-reality technologies, things that, if they had existed, would have opened the doors of possibility and allowed the fantastic gadgets of steampunk to be real. Enhanced coal, for example. My fictional enhanced coal burns hotter and faster than real coal and makes some preposterous machines just a little more plausible.
Now, what are you waiting for? Delve into the Capes & Clockwork stories –
For more information on the authors in this Q & A –
From Ray Dean: Howdy from Hawai’i, folks! I’ve been a guest blogger on Steamed! on several occasions, but thanks to Suzanne who gave me the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. So the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month you will be subjected… err… entertained(?) by my blog posts… YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED, I said… *cough*
Anywho… A hui hou (Until we meet again)